Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Write Brain: I'm sitting on a weapon

My chair is a weapon. It can be as I'm fighting with an intruder at my house. I hurl it at my attacker. He keeps coming at me, so I crawl back to my chair and roll it over his foot.  I use the chair to smash a window for an escape route.

Roll it over his foot? OK. So, I'm not much of an action hero. This is why attending free programs like the Pikes Peak Writers Write Brain sessions help me.

On Tuesday, Ian Thomas Healy spoke about writing better action by using cinematic techniques, because people read a scene like they watch a movie.

As a writer, he suggested you think like a director, script writer and stunt coordinator as you work on your action scenes. You can't have an action scene without violence, he said.

And, how does this help my memoir in progress — a story involving a mute, completely paralyzed man, who spells out his thoughts letter by letter, and me, a hapless caregiver and wife,  dealing with a messed up health care system?

No, my story doesn't include fights, shootouts, chases or battles in the sense that Healy shared. The fact my late husband couldn't walk or talk limits these action scenes, but I can utilize Healy's tips in my writing.

The meat and potatoes of action is one character vs. another. Check. I've got that.

To create your action scenes, Healy shared a worksheet to plot them out — details such as time of day and whether there are bystanders involved as well as the goal of both hero and opponent.

Healy's tips on action will be helpful as I write:
  • If you aim for realism, he cautioned writers to think about the consequences of fights, shoot outs, chases and battles. Are there bystanders? Is there property damage? Will the character have to deal with the consequences of this action?
  • On point of view, he cautioned you to not "head hop" while writing a large battle scene. Focus tightly on your hero. You can write it so that your hero is aware of other action in the battle, but you can't write every soldier's action.
  • Cover is important to a character. Seeking cover to get a break from the chaos of a shootout, can give characters time to interact and move the story along. While my characters aren't reloading guns, they do need to take cover from the healthcare drama to recharge mentally.
  • Role playing games like Dungeons & Dragons and GURPS have great reference manuals on weapons. This goes back to the realism point. If your hero is in a shoot out, does his gun's clip match the number of shots he fired without reloading?
  • An action engagement or sequence needs to resolve some issue in your story. Just because the action looks cool is not sufficient to include it in your story. 

So, now I've retrieved my chair from the street and vacuumed up the broken glass. I'm realistic, so I deal with the consequences of my action scene. My computer remained intact throughout the fight, because I wrote it that way.

I roll the chair up to my desk, open a new Word file and write.


  1. Thanks for the nice review, Stacy! I'm linking to it. :)

  2. Thanks for doing the workshop Ian. I enjoyed it.


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